Aer Lingus Heathrow landing slots unaffected by Shannon base closure

Pilots protest over Government’s ‘procrastination’ on reopening international air travel

Aer Lingus landing slots at London's Heathrow Airport will not be affected by the airline's decision to close its Shannon base and temporarily lay off staff at Cork Airport.

Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said "the slots are protected and are unaffected" by the cuts at Shannon with the possible loss of 126 jobs, and at Cork.

Speaking for Minister of State for Aviation Hildegarde Naughton, Mr Noonan said the State had certain connectivity commitments with International Airlines Group (IAG), which expire in September next year and "Aer Lingus cannot dispose of those slots without prior consent from the Minister for Finance".

The issue was raised as dozens of pilots lined the streets outside Leinster House on Monday in protest at the Government’s “procrastination” on the reopening of international air travel which the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) said “risks putting thousands of people in Ireland’s aviation sector permanently out of work”.


The union called for the use of antigen testing, an immediate harmonisation of the common travel area between the Republic and the UK, an end to the two-week mandatory hotel quarantine imposed on the US which has a well-advanced vaccination programme, and immediate full implementation of the proposed EU digital green certificates to allow free movement within the bloc.


The Government will on Friday set out at pathway for the re-opening of international travel and Mr Noonan acknowledged the “increasing need for a strategy for international travel that can serve as a basis to both protect existing jobs insofar as is possible and to plan for recommencement of operations as soon as is practically possible”.

He was responding in the Seanad to Fine Gael Senator Michael Conway who expressed grave concern about the Heathrow slots and the impact of the closures on the air connectivity to the mid-west region.

Mr Conway had called for a long-term commitment to keep the Heathrow slots open, to continue flights to Heathrow and maintain its transatlantic services to connect the region to North America, which he said was "critical to the foreign direct investors based in the mid-west and doing business in Shannon" and for tourism.

Stressing that the Heathrow slots would be protected Mr Noonan acknowledged that the airline “has little option but to take unpalatable measures to reduce its cost 2base”

The Minister said “nevertheless it is regrettable that Aer Lingus has decided to close its cabin crew base at Shannon Airport and to temporarily close its base at Cork Airport, as well as embark on a review of grounding-handling arrangements at those airports”.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Ms Naughton met the airline's chief executive who he said told them the company was not attempting to reduce connectivity at the airports but that "restoration of services depends on market circumstances".

Mr Noonan added that the two Ministers also reassured the airline “there will be no cliff edge in supports for the airline or for the wider aviation sector” and pointed to the €300 million in supports for the industry.

He re-affirmed that Government would outline its strategy on Friday for the re-opening of aviation.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times